52 Percent of Americans Say Sandy Hook Is Being Exploited for Political Gain

As gun rights and gun control are debated in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, a majority of Americans say elected officials are “exploiting” the tragedy.  The new Reason-Rupe poll finds 52 percent of Americans believe that elected officials are exploiting the tragedy for political gain, while 41 percent feel elected officials are acting responsibly. 

Democrats differ sharply from independents and Republicans on the issue. Seventy-one percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents think the tragedy is being politicized, while just 32 percent of Democrats believe so.

As Jacob Sullum mentioned in his column this morning, Reason-Rupe finds that over half, 51 percent, of Americans say people “should be allowed to own assault weapons,” while 44 percent say people “should be prohibited from owning assault weapons.” Once again there is a substantial political divide: 68 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents say assault weapons should be allowed. However, just 33 percent of Democrats agree.

Democrats, who normally count on the youth vote, may be surprised to find that 70 percent of 18-24 year-olds and 58 percent of 25-34 year-olds say “assault weapons should be allowed.” Similarly, Republicans, who usually rely upon the senior vote, will find that 57 percent of 55-64 year-olds and 61 percent of people over the age of 65 say assault weapons should be prohibited.

As Congress gets ready to debate new gun restrictions, just 27 percent of Americans say the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 would’ve helped avoid the tragedy if it were still in place. Over two-thirds, 67 percent, say the ban would not have helped avoid the shooting.

The public is split on what might have helped prevent the Newtown tragedy. When asked what might have helped prevent the shooting, 24 percent proposed better mental health treatment, 19 percent said stricter gun laws, 18 percent stressed better parenting and 17 percent suggested armed guards.

The poll also found little consensus when respondents were asked, open-ended, to actually define an assault weapon. Assault weapons were described as fully automatic machine guns in 29 percent of the responses. Twenty-seven percent of the answers defined assault weapons as any gun that fires rapidly, 23 percent focused on the size of the magazine or clip and 17 percent described them as any gun having the ability to fire multiple rounds.  

The polls finds 52 percent approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing and 42 percent disapprove. The public is split over how the president is handling the economy, with 48 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. Just 17 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and 74 percent disapprove.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,000 adults on mobile (500) and landline (500) phones from January 17-21, 2013. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide survey.

The full poll is online here (.pdf) and additional Reason-Rupe poll resources are available here. This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

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  • Romulus Augustus||

    Did anyone see the recent TIME magazine stats on cops shooting?
    I believe it was 30% hits when the perp wasn't firing at them and only 11% when the perp was firing back. That would seem to support the need for large clip mob-defense weapons for us civilians to use
    for home invasions, keeping back looters, etc. Most of our shots are going to miss and time is of the essence in getting off multiple shots.

  • Free Society||

    You forget that a cop's life is more valuable than a mere civilian.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Or even a mere slip of a dog^Wpuppy^pit bull.

  • Voss||

    my neighbor's mother makes $80 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her payment was $13036 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more... http://www.ace60.com

  • Cool Story, Bro||

    That's pretty good for performing in a few bukkake videos.

  • An0nB0t||

    A bit on the low side, in my experience.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Seventy-one percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents think the tragedy is being politicized, while just 32 percent of Democrats believe so.

    From that stat and the political breakdown of who opposes a ban on assault weapons, it appears that about a third of Democrats are hunters or gun owners. In other words, blue collar types.

  • SIV||

    61 percent of people over the age of 65 say assault weapons should be prohibited.

    I'm going to guess this reflects the greater # of women in this demographic.

  • ||

    Or dementia.

  • Tim||

    Pillow talk:

    My wife: Nobody should own an assault weapon.

    Me: We own two.

    Wife: But...

  • Rich||

    Yes, yes, please go on.

  • Free Society||

    You obviously don't beat your wife enough.

  • Tim||

    She's one of the millions who think an assault weapon is a machine gun. It took several minutes to come out. Also thinking with emotions instead of brain cells.

  • Free Society||

    Virtually every position a 'liberal' takes is based solely on emotion. My own wife is European, and she has come a long way in shedding those standard issue logical fallacies that most Europeans come equipped with.

  • Enough About Palin||

    It's weeks since Sandy Hook and there isn't a day that goes by where they don't rail against the NRA on Morning Joe. It's pathetic how they carry the president's water.

  • Free Society||

    The NRA is no sacred cow. LaPierre set about demanding that suspect persons be locked up and be forcefully medicated without any due process, just doctors orders. An apparent effort to steer the emotional uproar towards our other constitutional protections.

  • ||

    So? The gun-grabbers are anti-constition, and so are the NRA leadership. They just are anti- different parts of the constitution.

    It doesn't make one right and the other wrong, it makes them both wrong.

  • Free Society||

    So? I said the NRA is no sacred cow. I don't see any disagreement here.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    I don't own a gun and likely never will. Mainly due to outright apathy toward guns even though I've fired many guns friends bring to barbecues hosted in my idyllic woods.

    However, the intellectual compass of any nation is lost when it arms only the most brutal (law enforcement and military).

    I blame this vector on academia. It has failed to educate and enlighten minds and instead has created decades of weak brains that are lost and wobbly while frantically arrogant and emptily *spouty.

    *Yes, I know I made that word up- but it explains my observation most accurately. Emptily spouty and frantically arrogant desribes to me many of the brains operating in the Leftist pits like Raw Story or Huffington or Slate. In spite of the fact that these sites occasionally exhibit fringe aspects of Libertarianism they tend to worship Obama/high taxation/socialism.

  • ||

    Quite a few colleges and universities are run as First-Amendment-Free zones. On campus, you have the right to obey the Speech Code, otherwise you have to shut up. If you refuse to shut up, you get fired/expelled/trespassed and are gone.

    Given how universities are supposed to be bastions of free thought, yet they joyfully trample the first amendment they rely on into the mud almost daily, heir respect for other basic human rights like the right to self-defense or to confront an accuser tends to be even lower.

  • SugarFree||

    52 Percent of Americans Say Sandy Hook Is Being Exploited for Political Gain

    The real take-away is that 48% of Americans are completely ignorant of what the question is asking or bald-faced liars.

  • Zeb||

    That's exactly what I was going to say.

    Even if you support a whole bunch of new gun laws, how can you not see that the tragedy is being exploited for political purposes?

    Which is worse, that all these people are either liars or idiots, or that they somehow believe what they say? I can't decide.

  • ||

    Most people regard their own deeply held political beliefs as just common sense, that any sane person could see (usually coupled to a claim about how crazy the other guys are for not being able to see the truth).

    The practical definition of political special interest is "someone else's opinion."

  • Loki||

    52 Percent of Americans Say Sandy Hook Is Being Exploited for Political Gain

    The other 48% are ill-informed retards who clearly aren't paying attention.

  • Zeb||

    Or liars. Don't forget that possibility.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. - Hanlon's razor

  • ||

    That's precisely what a malicious person WOULD say

  • 22Chuck||

    note how low the poll places the "urgency" of gun control #6 http://reason.com/assets/db/13594787432940.pdf

  • ||

    Your own agenda is just common sense, not politics, no matter how extreme.

    Everyone else is a political special interest who needs to shut up now.

  • Cavpitalist||

    Subtitle:

    48% of Americans have no access to media involving current events.

  • Free Society||

    Moar democracy! Majorities know what they are doing.

  • ||

    Proving that 52% of Americans are fkn retards.

  • Sosalty||

    And this is news on a day when a 0.1% economic revised retraction for the 4th quarter of 2012 is being reported? In the midst of 2% inflation I may add. .
    2nd amendment resistance/demonstrate day is Feb23

  • LarryA||

    As Congress gets ready to debate new gun restrictions, just 27 percent of Americans say the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 would’ve helped avoid the tragedy if it were still in place. Over two-thirds, 67 percent, say the ban would not have helped avoid the shooting.

    Maybe the percentages would be different if the mainstream media told the whole truth, and reported that while the federal ban expired in 2004, Connecticut has in effect an equivalent state AWB that utterly failed to protect the people at Sandy Hook Elementary.

    But I doubt it.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Larry, Larry, Larry... There you go using logic and reason. How silly of you to think that things like facts would have made a difference in the minds of those 27 percent. Their mind is already made up that guns are the direct cause of the worlds evil.

  • CZmacure||

    1) To reduce assault style rifle violence mandate that owners must keep their weapons away from minors and disturbed individuals in the home or face severe civil and criminal consequences with mandatory prison time. Let your son go to school with your AR-10, AR-15, high capacity assault styled weapon because you didn't lock it away from him then lose your savings, your home and your freedom. If you locked it up and he stole it, then you are not culpable. But you run the risk to trust him or not. This would not include handguns.

    2) To reduce handgun related violence declare the Bloods, Crips, MS13, Hells Angels, mafia, .... demonstrably violent gangs.... as TERRORISTS. Treat them like enemy combatants. Use the NDAA 2012 and extended Patriot Act against them. Sure we have too many people in prison and yet our crime rates are down - go figure. Just being in a demonstrably violent gang should make it illegal to own a gun. When you are a member of a gang you are forswearing your primary secular allegiance to the U.S.

  • Katherine||

    As shocking and tragic as the situation at Sandy Hook was, I find it appalling that it took a bunch of cute, affluent white kids being killed to spur Obama to action.

    I don't understand why the black community isn't outraged about this. Far more people die from gun violence in our inner cities than have happened in these recent high-profile cases.

    What is the Obama administration doing about this? All these new laws and restrictions will do nothing to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook, and will certainly do nothing to help the plight of our inner cities.

    I would support any legislation or regulations if they could show me how they would have prevented the murder of the teenage girl who was at Obama's inauguration.

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